Why Do You Race?

This post has been sitting in my drafts for quite some time.  I have been meaning to post it but there are so many different facets to this that I just never got around to finishing.  I have been running races since I was a very young girl.  When I was little a neighbor boy got very sick and passed away.  He was a local track star and our town created a 5K in his name.  Several years later his father passed away at a race and now the 5K is named for both of them.  I remember being just a young kid and running around the neighborhood “training” myself for the 5K.  I felt so proud of myself and cherished the medals I would receive for running these races.

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At one of the first races his dad handed out the medals.

In my 20’s I got back into running after a long hiatus.  At first it was a way for me to stay in shape after many years of competitive figure skating.  But over time it has become so much more than that.  It is a lifestyle.  I managed to drag my husband into the sport and together we would run countless miles.

You can be the star of your own race: A few years ago I asked my husband if he would do a race with me.  At the time we ran almost every day and averaged 6-10 miles per run.  But he really didn’t want to race.  He still was hesitant to consider himself a runner.  In high school he was a state champion hockey and lacrosse player and had played years of Division 1 college hockey.  Although not as competitive as I am (lucky for him) he didn’t really want to join a competition that he felt he wasn’t prepared for.  I tried so hard to convince him that road races weren’t anything like that and finally after months of prodding he agreed to try one.

I of course had to pick a 15K distance for his first race.  It also happened to be one of the most challenging courses I have ever done.  Talk about setting the guy up!  We started at the back of the field and plugged our way along the course.  After we hit a gigantic hill at mile two, something happened.  The crowds cheering everyone along got to him and he got into a groove.  Slowly we started passing people and he came into his own out there.  By the end we finished with a very respectable time.

Later that day we were enjoying a post run beer at a bar.  We were still high off of our race together and recapping everything we liked about the race.  He was most excited about how fun it was to be out on the course with other runners of all paces.  Everyone was doing their own thing and most people were having a really great time.  No one was out there worrying about who was in first or who was in 300th place.  So many people were out cheering along the course for others they had never met and there were so many volunteers making sure the runners had a safe and fun time.

My husband looked up at me and said, “Why don’t you look for another race for next weekend?”  Thus began a spring of races in different towns almost every weekend.  It was awesome!  For both of us, former competitive athletes, it was an opportunity for each of us to feel that competitive drive again but on our own terms.  We could push ourselves to the brink of our own abilities and cross the finish line a success, not because we won, but because we were still winners on our own terms.

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We are a community: A few weeks ago we did  the Terry Fox 5K in Central Park.  It was a free race with so many participants and volunteers.  When we arrived and I saw everyone wearing their race shirts and all of the volunteers out working for such a great cause, I got tears in my eyes.  Seeing the camaraderie among the running community is something so very special.  While many of us go to run our best races and we have worked incredibly hard, we are also there to be part of something bigger.  Together we create a very special and caring place that goes beyond running.  It makes me so proud to be a part of this.

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You can run for charity:  This past summer I was given the incredible opportunity to coach the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Team Momentum.  Over 100 runners from Chicago and across the country came together locally and virtually to raise funds and train for the Chicago Marathon.  The vast majority of these people were first time marathoners and some were even first time runners.  Many of them had very personal connections to muscle disease through friends and family.  They committed themselves for months to raise their funds for the MDA and train their bodies for a marathon.

Getting to watch a group of athletes work for a better good and for a charity that meant so much to them and myself was one of the best experiences I have ever had.  They cheered each other on, they joked, they cried, and they pushed themselves to places they had never been and may have never imagined going to.  While running was a big part of this experience, it went beyond just the sport.  This was something much bigger.  Every person who had the opportunity to be a part of the charity program had a fantastic experience.  In return for their hard work they were provided with everything they needed to have a first class marathon experience.  By the end I got to see 135 athletes cross the finish line and become marathoners.

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For many of us running is a huge part of our lives.  We take for granted each day that we can use our muscles in so many ways.  To have the opportunity to fundraise and run for those who might not be able to was a very special experience.  It was a true testament to the fact that most often, it really is about more than just running.

Why do you race?

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This past Saturday was the Terry Fox 5K race in Central Park.  Our student Zach wanted to try out a 5K for the first time and we all thought this would be a good one for him.  One of the first friends I met here in New York City 12 years ago has been doing this race for awhile and highly recommended signing up.  Heather is one of nicest and most fun people ever, so it was an added incentive to see her too.

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Crazy fact; I have lived in New York City off and on for over 12 years now and never run a single race in the actual city.  I have done  so many races in Connecticut, New Jersey,  and all over Upstate New York.  So this was actually a first for me too.
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The race started right smack in the middle of Central Park by the Bethesda Fountain.  We had signed up online and packet pick up was the hour before the race began.  Registration was free with the offer of making a donation on behalf of the Terry Fox Foundation.  Unbelievably we each received T-shirts with our bibs the morning of the race.  The shirts are you standard cotton T-shirt but the front is a really neat picture of Terry Fox.
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Terry Fox was a Canadian athlete who was diagnosed with cancer.  In 1980, with one leg amputated due to his cancer, he went on to start a cross country running journey to help raise money and awareness for cancer research.  His journey was called the Marathon of Hope.  He made it to Thunder Bay, Ontario where he had to cut short his journey due to his illness and passed away nine months later.
Today the Terry Fox Foundation is huge both in Canada as well as the United States.  Races are run in his honor each year all over the country to help spread his legacy and continue his humanitarian efforts for cancer research.
This was my first run back after the marathon and was glad to take it nice and easy with our buddy Zach and his friend Raphael.  I followed them as they took off on their first 5K, two laps of the lower loop of Central Park. This was a nice easy one for these two who are already accomplished half marathoners at the old age of thirteen.  It was well directed and boasted over 3000 runners!
My husband's depiction of the race to our preschool sports class yesterday.  Pretty accurate.

My husband’s depiction of the race to our preschool sports class yesterday. Pretty accurate.

There were plenty of aid stations for a 5K (hosted by the Harlem Rangers youth hockey team) as well as plenty of cheer stations full of volunteers along the course.  The Park can be crowded this time of year as athletes are winding down their marathon training along with lots of tourists and horse drawn carriages blocking the paths.  The volunteers did a great job with crowd control.
I crossed the finish right behind two sweaty but very happy young boys.  There weren’t any medals to be given out but the Terry Fox 5K did not disappoint.  There were tents full of food and refreshments, emcees chatting it up with the crowd and some really incredible raffle prizes.  The Four Seasons Hotel made for one awesome sponsor for this race.  Free trip to Orlando or brunch at the Four Seasons?  That’s a nice incentive to wake up and run a few miles.
The best part of the day, besides Zach winning one of the raffles, was that despite this being a free race they pulled in over $130,000 in donations.  Now that is a serious success!
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Congrats to Zach, Raph, and my friend Heather for running a great race for a great cause on Saturday.
By the way, if you are missing that achy post race feeling in your quads and hamstrings we came across the perfect solution for you.  As we were leaving the park there was a group doing a two mile lunge adventure.  My husband ran up to take their picture and they offered to let him join.  He decided last weeks 26.2 was enough damage on the legs for time being.
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